Labor and employment laws have long been instituted to protect employee well-being. While there are overarching federal regulations in the US aimed at protecting employees, it's essential to recognize that each state has its own nuanced legal framework.
In Illinois, the bar is often higher than the federal minimum when it comes to employee benefits and protections. Whether it’s about wage regulations, working conditions, or discrimination, the Prairie State takes a distinct and more stringent approach.
With these complexities, it's crucial for businesses hiring and operating in Illinois to stay ahead of compliance requirements. Enter Rippling’s Professional Employer Organization service, which manages local tax registration and handles the intricacies of state-specific laws—allowing you to scale your business faster.
Employment vs. labor law: What’s the difference?
While the terms "employment law" and "labor law" are frequently mistaken as one and the same, there are distinct legal differences between the two. The fundamental distinction comes down to the parties involved: Employment law primarily concerns the relationship between the employer and the individual employee, while labor law focuses on the relationship between the employer and a collective group, typically represented by unions.
More specifically, here’s what employment and labor laws each encompass:
- Employment law governs issues like hiring and termination practices, discrimination in the workplace, wage and hour regulations, workplace safety and conditions, benefits, and leave entitlements.
- Labor law addresses matters like collective bargaining agreements, union organization and rights, strikes and picketing, and arbitration for collective disputes.
Wages and hours in Illinois
The minimum wage is set by the Illinois Department of Labor, which is in the process of raising the state’s minimum wage over the course of the next few years. The state also has strict rules around hours employees can work, when employers must offer breaks and time off, when employees are entitled to overtime pay, and more.
Minimum wage in Illinois
As of 2023, Illinois’s minimum wage law guarantees at least $13 an hour for all non-tipped workers 18 years of age and older. But, the state allows tipped workers and minors to be paid a subminimum wage. Here are the minimum wages for different types of workers and what to expect in the coming years.
Tipped minimum wage
Minimum wage for minors (under 18)
The minimum wage is also higher in Cook County and the city of Chicago.
Tipped minimum wage
Minimum wage for minors (under 18)
$15 ($15.80 for employers with 21 or more employees)
$9 ($9.48 for employers with 21 or more employees)
Rippling ensures you stay compliant when setting hourly wages by automatically flagging minimum wage violations based on the state where an employee lives—which is especially important if you have employees in Illinois, where the minimum wage is higher.
Overtime pay in Illinois
Illinois follows the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which says that any employee who works above 40 hours in a workweek is entitled to receive overtime pay at 1.5x their regular rate of pay. There are some exemptions, namely for employees in administrative, professional, and executive roles who earn at least $684 per week.
Illinois doesn’t specifically cap the number of overtime hours an employee can work, but there is a state law that says employees must have at least 24 hours of rest each calendar week—so take that into account.
Rippling’s payroll software can help you adhere to overtime rules in Illinois—it automatically applies the correct rates when an employee’s hours trigger overtime pay requirements.
Pay transparency in Illinois
Gatekeeping salary information from job candidates is becoming a thing of the past. More and more states are considering and passing legislation that requires employers to disclose wage ranges, all in the name of preventing wage disparities and making workplaces more equitable. Considering how worker-friendly Illinois is, it’s no surprise that the state has joined the wave of pay transparency laws.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill on August 11, 2023, requiring all employers with 15+ employees to provide salary ranges and benefits in job postings. The law applies to jobs that are performed in Illinois, as well as remote jobs where the employee reports to a supervisor, office, or other work site in Illinois. It takes effect on January 1, 2025.
With Rippling, it’s easier to enforce compensation bands during onboarding. Out-of-band adjustments get automatically flagged, so you can approve special cases or block them as needed.
Breaks and rest periods in Illinois
Under Illinois’s One Day Rest in Seven Act, employers must give their employees a minimum of 24 continuous hours off for every seven consecutive days worked. The only exception is if the employee voluntarily agrees to work on the seventh day for overtime pay. In this case, the employer will need to secure a special permit.
Employees are also entitled to meal breaks. Meal periods must last at least 20 minutes for every 7.5 hours worked, and they should start no later than five hours after the beginning of the workday. If an employee works 12 hours or more in one day, they’re entitled to two meal breaks.
Leaves of absence in Illinois
Illinois state law requires employers to provide certain kinds of leave. The details are in the table below.
No paid or unpaid sick leave is required.
Family and medical leave
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for employees to:
- Recover from a serious illness
- Care for an ill family member
- Welcome a new baby, foster, or adopted child
Blood donation leave
Employers with 50+ employees must allow their employees to take one hour of unpaid leave every 56 days to donate blood.
Employers with 50+ employees must let employees take up to two weeks of unpaid leave if they lose a child.
Employers with 50+ employees must let employees take up to eight hours of unpaid leave to attend school conferences or activities that can’t be scheduled after work hours.
Employers are not required to offer any paid or unpaid vacation leave. However, if they offer vacation benefits, they must abide by their own policies.
Private employers are not required to give employees holidays off.
Jury duty leave
Employers must let employees take as much unpaid leave as they need to serve on a jury, and employees can’t be fired for missing work due to a jury summons.
Employees are entitled to two hours of unpaid leave to vote, provided they give notice.
Employers must allow employees as much unpaid leave as they need to serve or train in the US armed forces, state militia, or National Guard. Employees must be allowed to return to work with the same pay increases and benefits as if they had never left.
Emergency response leave
Employers cannot fire employees for taking leave to respond to an emergency if they are a volunteer emergency worker.
Employees must be allowed to take leave to appear as a witness in criminal proceedings, and they can’t be fired or disciplined for doing so.
Crime victim leave
Employers cannot take any adverse action against employees for taking leave to participate in criminal proceedings related to a crime that they were the victim of.
Domestic violence or sexual assault leave
Does not bear an economic risk
Employers must provide leave to any employee who is the victim of domestic or sexual violence so they can seek treatment (medical or psychological), relocate, or get legal assistance. The amount of leave varies based on the employer’s size.
Pregnancy disability leave in Illinois
For maternity, paternity, and pregnancy disability leave, Illinois defaults to the FMLA, which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
A separate law requires employers in Illinois to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees (unless it presents an undue hardship). Reasonable accommodations may include more frequent bathroom breaks, assistance with manual labor, or modifications to the work schedule.
With Rippling, you can customize and automate your leave policy—and maintain full visibility into how employees are using it.
Workplace safety in Illinois
Workplace safety isn't merely a concern—it's a right. Like other US states, Illinois places significant importance on workplace safety. However, it often goes above and beyond federal guidelines.
In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determines and enforces standards to ensure workplace safety. OSHA covers a broad spectrum, from hazardous material handling to ergonomics, ensuring that employers across various industries adhere to prescribed safety guidelines.
While federal OSHA guidelines are comprehensive, Illinois has its own division known as the Illinois Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Illinois OSHA). This state-specific division is focused on public sector employees and often provides more stringent regulations compared to its federal counterpart.
Distinct protections under Illinois OSHA include:
- Whistleblower protections: Illinois provides robust protections for employees reporting unsafe conditions, ensuring they are shielded from any retaliation.
- Regular inspections: Beyond the federal OSHA requirements, Illinois mandates frequent inspections of workplaces, particularly those in high-risk sectors.
- Training requirements: Illinois may have additional or more detailed training requirements for specific industries or hazards.
- Public sector focus: Unlike federal OSHA, Illinois OSHA zeroes in on public sector employees, filling a crucial gap.
Illinois OSHA also requires every workplace to have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). The IIPP mandates employers to proactively identify and mitigate potential workplace risks, fostering a culture of prevention and safety.
Rippling PEO offers a convenient pay-as-you-go workers’ comp plan that doesn’t require you to pay upfront for the whole year. Scale your business stress-free in Illinois and elsewhere around the US.
Discrimination and harassment laws in Illinois
Illinois has one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country. The Illinois Human Rights Act makes it a crime for employers with one or more employees to discriminate based on:
- Pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions
- National origin
- Arrest record
- Expunged and concealed convictions
- Marital status
- Housing status
- Sexual orientation
- Citizenship status
- Military status
- Unfavorable military discharge
- Protective order status
In addition, the Illinois Equal Pay Act says that employers must pay equal wages for equal work, and can’t pay less to any employee based on any of the above protected characteristics.
Under both Illinois and federal law, harassment is considered a form of discrimination. Harassment entails unwelcome behavior toward an employee based on protected characteristics. Unwelcome behavior could include offensive jokes, threats, physical or sexual assault, inappropriate objects or photos, or anything else that interferes with the employee’s well-being and performance at work.
It’s important to distinguish between behavior and one-off incidents, which aren’t likely to meet the legal definition of harassment unless they’re extremely severe. If an employee is forced to withstand an offensive environment as a condition of staying employed, that can also count as harassment.
Different states have varying laws around sexual harassment training for employees. In Illinois, all employees must complete training within 30 days of being hired and again annually. Rippling’s Learning Management System is pre-loaded with core sexual harassment training courses that meet different state requirements, so you can ensure your employees stay compliant with local laws—no matter where they live.
Unions in Illinois
A union is formed when groups of workers come together to discuss and negotiate work-related issues, such as pay and conditions. Collective bargaining is when a union negotiates with the employer to come to an agreement about wages, working conditions, and other job-related matters.
- Join or form a union
- Engage in union activity to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions
- Choose or request union representation
- Vote in union elections
It's crucial to note that employers cannot threaten or penalize employees based on their decision to support or not support a union. Similarly, unions can’t threaten employees with job loss if they don’t support the union.
In addition to the NLRA, some union-related laws are determined at the state level. The state of Illinois has not adopted what’s called “right-to-work” legislation, which means that private employers in the state can require employees to join a union as a condition of their employment.
FAQs about Illinois labor and employment laws
Are independent contractors covered under Illinois employment laws?
It depends on the law, but most employment laws only apply to employees, not contractors. Make sure you’re classifying your workers correctly with our analyzer tool.
Does at-will employment exist in Illinois?
Yes. Illinois is an at-will employment state. This means employers can fire employees at any time, without warning, and without cause. Employees can also quit at any time without notice.
What privacy rights do employees have in Illinois?
Illinois law prohibits employers from asking employees for any information about their private social media accounts.
Employers in Illinois are also subject to the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act or BIPA. This gives employees total control over their biometric data and prevents employers from collecting it without written consent. Biometric data includes fingerprints, DNA, hand scans, voice prints, and more.
Are background checks legal in Illinois?
Background checks are generally allowed in Illinois (with some limitations). For certain professions, background checks are required, including healthcare personnel, firefighters, peace officers, school bus drivers, and others.
However, employers are typically not allowed to run credit checks on job applicants as part of the background check process unless they work in financial and insurance institutions, law enforcement, or debt collection.
Are whistleblowers protected in Illinois?
Whistleblowers in Illinois are protected and must be able to report violations of the law without being fired, discriminated against, or treated differently.
Is workers’ compensation coverage required in Illinois?
All employers with one or more employees are required to purchase workers’ compensation coverage in Illinois.
Are there required healthcare benefits in Illinois?
Under federal law, any employer with 50 or more full-time employees is required to provide healthcare benefits.
What employee protections are available in Illinois if layoffs occur?
Businesses covered by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act may need to give employees 60 days’ notice before layoffs.
Under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, any employee who is laid off should receive their final paycheck by the next payday.
What child labor laws exist in Illinois?
Children under 14 generally cannot work in most jobs, except for certain roles like newspaper delivery or acting. Minors ages 14-17 can work in allowed occupations but with restricted hours, especially during school days. Illinois mandates that minors must get a meal break of at least 30 minutes after five consecutive hours of work.
Are non-compete clauses allowed in Illinois?
Employers can’t enter into non-compete agreements with employees who earn $75,000 or less, and they can’t require non-solicitation agreements with employees who earn $45,000 or less. While these clauses are often standard parts of employment contracts in other states, including them in Illinois could land you in legal trouble.
Disclaimer: Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.